Bioterrorism Lab Open; Awaits Fed Clearance
Puko, Tim, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
More than two years overdue and at least $2 million over budget, the Allegheny County Health Department bioterrorism lab still is waiting for federal clearances, but it is open and operating.
County officials hope that by the end of the year, the lab will be accepted into the national response network run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Dr. Bruce Dixon, the department director. That will allow the lab to take potentially deadly pathogens such as anthrax bacteria, the smallpox virus and H1N1 flu virus for examination.
The bioterrorism lab, a small part of a larger $6.4 million biosecurity lab in Lawrenceville, opened in the summer and has been helping test tuberculosis and HIV, Dixon said. Workers had to move a pipe outside the building to fix ventilation problems. The system of air locks and negative pressure to keep air pathogens contained wasn't built properly and prevented some doors from locking, Dixon said.
"The fine balancing of the air and making sure things work according to the systems is a very delicate thing," he said.
Officials at the CDC did not respond to a request for comment.
The 500-square-foot bioterrorism lab was supposed to begin operating in August 2009. …